Chickens come home to roost in backyards around the USA

Two of our neighbors have chickens. Chris and Leigh Ann, recent converts to backyard chickens, like the healthy eggs and enjoy watching the chickens. Their 3-year-old son gets lots of exercise chasing the hens.

USA Today describes the unfolding trend. Excerpts below.

Link: Chickens come home to roost in backyards around the USA –

A trend in backyard chicken farming is taking hold as urbanites, eager to scoop up flavorful organic eggs, discover how easy it is to get started. A simple coop, a pen and a little feed are such a low entry bar that people are flocking to try their hand at keeping chickens in a tough economy.

About 150 communities have launched networks of hobbyist chicken farmers in the past two years, says Andy Schneider, host of Backyard Poultry With the Chicken Whisperer on blogspot radio.

Outfitting chickens costs about $200 for lumber, plus $5 a month for feed. Chickens earn their keep by offering many benefits, Rudin says, including a tick-free backyard and lots of fun for her children, Ted, 9, and Finnian, 5, and her husband, Jon. What's more, they make free-range eggs an affordable part of the family diet.

A low entry bar for chicken farming helps explain why some communities, such as Caledonia, Wis., have blocked recent campaigns to permit backyard chicken farming. Among the concerns: Negligent practices can lead to odors and attract rodents.

But Schneider, the backyard-poultry-show host, insists the risks are no greater than those associated with owning dogs.

Some observers believe that concerns about undercutting farmers are overblown, too.

"People who have chickens or who farm in their gardens are more interested in getting to know where their food comes from" than those who don't, Heike Mayer, professor of economic geography at the University of Bern in Switzerland, said in an e-mail. "Those who have chickens will be more likely to buy a piece of meat from the local small farm."

Meanwhile, organic eggs from local providers are commanding high prices. Joseph Heckman, a Rutgers University soil scientist and proprietor of River Birch Micro Farm in Monroe Township, N.J., gets $5 a dozen for his eggs. But in terms of backyard agriculture, he, too, would like to become more self-sufficient.

Vitamin D3 Is Great for Me

I was driving to the golf course three weeks ago when it happened. To make the 30-minute drive more enjoyable (truthfully, it's because I'm an information freak), I hook my iPod into my car radio and listen to an audio book. It landed on Dr. Mark Hyman's book UltraMind and I started listening.

In the audio version of his book, Dr. Hyman emphasized that most of us who don't work outside are vitamin D deficient. His reasoning was so compelling that I decided to do some research when I got home. I found the a post (below) on his UltraWellness blog. I decided to follow his advice (I skipped the blood test — I figure it's probably his lawyer's counsel for avoiding law suits and AMA sanctions) and start taking a large dose of vitamin D3 daily.

Several days later, Ann and I were shopping at Trader Joes when I saw a bottle of Vitamin D3. I bought a bottle and started taking 10,000 IU a day.

Wow! The aches and pains that I felt every day started fading away. The need for a nap in the late afternoon went away. My memory improved. I looked forward to my daily bike ride. I felt better most of the time.

Today I saw another article about vitamin D on The Daily Reckoning web site (a financial site). Here's an excerpt (the whole article is below):

This ranks as one of the most important public health breakthroughs in decades.

A trickle of solid peer-reviewed evidence that most people are severely vitamin D deficient has turned into a flood. If the new consensus is correct, and I believe it is, increasing your vitamin D level could, for most people, add years of healthy life. It could also save the U.S. economy hundreds of billions annually…

D is not just another nutrient. Putting it simplistically, it is the über-nutrient that affects the way all other nutrients, not just calcium, are utilized.

Now we see a compendium of solid peer-reviewed research indicating that many of our most troublesome and expensive diseases are symptoms of vitamin D deficiency.

Link: Vitamin D — Why You Are Probably NOT Getting Enough – UltraWellness – Mark Hyman, MD

What vitamin do we need in amounts up to 25 times higher than the government recommends for us to be healthy?

What vitamin deficiency affects over half of the population, is almost never diagnosed, and has been linked to many cancers, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, depression, fibromyalgia, chronic muscle pain, bone loss, and autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis?

What vitamin is almost totally absent from our food supply?

What vitamin is the hidden cause of so much suffering that is so easy to treat?

The answer to all of these questions is vitamin D.

Over the last 10 years of my practice, my focus has been to discover what the body needs to function optimally. And I have become more interested in the role of specific nutrients as the years have passed.

Two recent studies in the journal Pediatrics found that 70 percent of American kids aren't getting enough vitamin D, and this puts them at higher risk of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and lower levels of good cholesterol. Low vitamin D levels also may increase a child's risk of developing heart disease later in life.

Overall, 7.6 million, or 9 percent, of U.S. children were vitamin-D deficient, and another 50.8 million, or 61 percent, had insufficient levels of this important vitamin in their blood.

Over the last 5 years, I have tested almost every patient in my practice for vitamin D deficiency, and I have been shocked by the results. What’s even more amazing is what happens when my patients' vitamin D status reaches optimal levels. Having witnessed these changes, there's no doubt in my mind: vitamin D is an incredible asset to your health.

6 Tips for Getting the Right Amount of Vitamin D

Unless you're spending all your time at the beach, eating 30 ounces of wild salmon a day, or downing 10 tablespoons of cod liver oil a day, supplementing with vitamin D is essential. The exact amount needed to get your blood levels to the optimal range (100 to160 nmol/L) will vary depending on your age, how far north you live, how much time you spend in the sun, and even the time of the year. But once you reach optimal levels, you'll be amazed at the results.

For example, one study found that vitamin D supplementation could reduce the risk of getting type 1 diabetes by 80 percent. In the Nurses' Health Study (a study of more than 130,000 nurses over 3 decades), vitamin D supplementation reduced the risk of multiple sclerosis by 40 percent.

I've seen many patients with chronic muscle aches and pains and fibromyalgia who are vitamin D deficient — a phenomenon that's been documented in studies. Their symptoms improve when they are treated with vitamin D.

Finally, vitamin D has been shown to help prevent and treat osteoporosis. In fact, it's even more important than calcium. That's because your body needs vitamin D to be able to properly absorb calcium. Without adequate levels of vitamin D, the intestine absorbs only 10 to 15 percent of dietary calcium. Research shows that the bone-protective benefits of vitamin D keep increasing with the dose.

So here is my advice for getting optimal levels of vitamin D:

    1. Get tested for 25 OH vitamin D. The current ranges for "normal" are 25 to 137 nmol/L or 10 to 55 ng/ml. These are fine if you want to prevent rickets — but NOT for optimal health. In that case, the range should be 100 to 160 nmol/L or 40 to 65 ng/ml. In the future, we may raise this "optimal" level even higher.

    2. Take the right type of vitamin D. The only active form of vitamin D is vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). Look for this type. Many vitamins and prescriptions of vitamin D have vitamin D2 — which is not biologically active.

    3. Take the right amount of vitamin D. If you have a deficiency, you should correct it with 5,000 to 10,000 IU of vitamin D3 a day for 3 months — but only under a doctor's supervision. For maintenance, take 2,000 to 4,000 IU a day of vitamin D3. Some people may need higher doses over the long run to maintain optimal levels because of differences in vitamin D receptors, living in northern latitudes, indoor living, or skin color.

    4. Monitor your vitamin D status until you are in the optimal range. If you are taking high doses (10,000 IU a day) your doctor must also check your calcium, phosphorous, and parathyroid hormone levels every 3 months.

    5. Remember that it takes up to 6 to 10 months to "fill up the tank" for vitamin D if you're deficient. Once this occurs, you can lower the dose to the maintenance dose of 2,000 to 4,000 Units a day.

    6. Try to eat dietary sources of vitamin D. These include:

    • Fish liver oils, such as cod liver oil. 1 TBSP (15 ml) = 1,360 IU of vitamin D

    • Cooked wild salmon. 3.5 oz = 360 IU of vitamin D

    • Cooked mackerel. 3.5 oz = 345 IU of vitamin D

    • Sardines, canned in oil, drained. 1.75 oz = 250 IU of vitamin D

    • One whole egg = 20 IU of vitamin D

Link: The Uber Nutrient Worth "Hundreds of Billions".

10/21/09 Marco Island, Florida – This ranks as one of the most important public health breakthroughs in decades.

A trickle of solid peer-reviewed evidence that most people are severely vitamin D deficient has turned into a flood. If the new consensus is correct, and I believe it is, increasing your vitamin D level could, for most people, add years of healthy life. It could also save the U.S. economy hundreds of billions annually…

D is not just another nutrient. Putting it simplistically, it is the über-nutrient that affects the way all other nutrients, not just calcium, are utilized. Virtually every cell in the body has a D receptor, even those in the brain. Until recently, however, few asked why. This is a particularly interesting question because there is very little vitamin D actually available in food. Most of our nutritional D, in fact, is added. Historically, the primary source of D, not only for humans, but for many other animals, has been sunshine. We convert the energy found in ultraviolet B in our skin to vitamin D. Obviously, there is something critically important about D if our prehistoric ancestors could manufacture it even during times of famine.

Now we see a compendium of solid peer-reviewed research indicating that many of our most troublesome and expensive diseases are symptoms of vitamin D deficiency. Rickets, apparently, was only the tip of the iceberg. Other diseases on the list of conditions caused or exacerbated by D deficiency include cancers, diabetes, susceptibility to bacterial and viral infections, autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, heart disease, stroke, osteomalacia or age-related bone mass thinning, osteoporosis, depression and even food allergies. Obesity, in fact, is highly correlated with vitamin D deficiency. In many of these conditions, risk factors drop within months, and by as much as 80%.

Tea Pee for Health

For the past eight years, Dan Buettner has led expeditions to regions he calls Blue Zones — places around the world where people are living measurably longer. Ikaria has the longest living people on earth. He tells us why. (His book is called The Blue Zones.)

Link: High Performance: Longevity, Blue Zones by Dan Buettner – National Geographic Adventure Magazine.

Experts find the world’s longest-living people in a remote mountain village on a tiny island in an exotic sea. They party hard, work into their hundreds, and still have sex into their 90s. But then the twist: Their secret isn’t red wine or yogurt or young lovers. The key ingredient to living and loving longer, it seems, is growing right in their gardens.

Ikarians have an afternoon habit of picking fistfuls of garden herbs and steeping them in boiled water for an evening beverage; at breakfast, they drink tea from other dried herbs.

All of these herbs have one thing in common: They are diuretics—they make you pee. In so doing, they help flush your body of natural waste products. (If you don’t urinate often enough, toxic compounds from your cells build up and cause damage over time.) But what we found more interesting—and more likely to explain Ikaría’s greater life expectancy—is that diuretics lower blood pressure in a way not unlike how letting water out of a balloon reduces pressure in the balloon. Diuretics cause the kidneys to remove sodium and water from the body, thereby alleviating pressure on the blood vessel walls. High blood pressure is a leading cause of heart attacks, strokes, and—get this—dementia.
Some Ikarian herbs can be hard to find outside of Greece, but other healthy herbs are readily available in the U.S. Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), nettle (Urtica), and birch (Betula) are among the most famous European diuretics. If these don’t sound appetizing, consider an ancient fallback. “Green tea is nature’s best beverage,” says Greg Plotnikoff, M.D., medical director at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing in Minneapolis and a top expert on Eastern medicine. “Mint and rosemary teas are potentially powerful health-promoting medicines, but the best research surrounds green tea. It’s a diuretic and contains catechin, which can block cancer, prevent or delay diseases of aging, and prolong healthy lives.”
Wonder Weeds
Herbs with Rx Power

+WILD MINT (Mentha arvensis):
Good for: Gingivitis, flatulence, and ulcers.
Availability: Easy to grow in the U.S. and, like all of these herbs, available at health food stores.

+SPLEENWORT (Asplenium nidus):
Good for: Gallstones and bronchial problems.
Availability: Buy a bird’s-nest fern as a houseplant and steep the leaves for tea.

+ROSEMARY (Rosmarinus officinalis):
Good for: Liver ailments; helps stave off Alzheimer’s.
Availability: Thrives across the U.S. Brew the leaves for tea (smells like evergreen).

+PURPLE SAGE (Salvia purpurascens):
Good for: Stomach-aches; enhances memory function.
Availability: Common across the western U.S.

+GREEN TEA (Camellia sinensis):
Good for: Cancer prevention.
Availability: Camellia sinensis leaves are hard to grow outside of the tropics. Hit up Starbucks.

A garden and a homecooked meal are revolutionary acts

I am very grateful to my wife Ann, whose green thumb provides us with home-grown food which become tasty and healthy homecooked meals. Her blog at Inspired Gardening documents her garden and food preparation.Fresh from the garden

From the Of Two Minds blog, Charles Hugh Smith writes:

…"a garden and a homecooked meal are revolutionary acts." These simple acts are revolutionary because they upend the oppressive regime of agribusiness, packaged/fast food and the sick-care system–all parts in a seamless system of ill-health, derangement, torpor and chronic disease which can be treated with enormously expensive and mostly needless medications and procedures.

This is what I term an integrated understanding of the entire system of growing and consuming food and health. Agribusiness, fast food, high salt, high fat and high sugar processed "foods" (poisons is a more accurate term), chronic illness and various derangements, and an immensely profitable sick-care system are all one. There can be no "solutions" without an integrated understanding that simple behaviors are the heart of any and all real solutions. Buying something "new" is a simulacrum "solution" marketed to reap profits.

The solution to sick-care starts not with 1,000 pages of legislation, paid for with trillons of dollars of borrowed money but with an understanding of the causal connections between gardening, vegetables/food, cooking rather than consuming, self-reliance, goal-directed activity and responsibility for one's health.

Link: oftwominds: Rant or Revelation: My Money's on Revelation

The Battle over our Food – the Pesticiders Hate Organic Gardens

Jim Hightower provides some political insight into symbolism and lobbyists.


What's the number one outdoor activity in America? Not baseball, soccer, jogging or golf. Instead, it's gardening!

I happen to be part of this happy activity. Maintaining a small organic garden in my yard lets me dig in compost, rejoice at ripening tomatoes, clip fresh herbs – and devour the luscious results. So, when Michelle Obama recently planted an organic garden on the White House lawn, I joined gardeners and organic food advocates all across the country in applauding this symbolic stand for good food, the environment, and common sense.

Not everyone joined in the joy, however. An outfit called the Mid American Croplife Association (MACA) was in a full-tilt snit over this "First Garden." MACA is the lobbying front for such pesticide purveyors as Monsanto, Dow, and DuPont – not a bunch that's simpatico with the organic movement. Indeed, MACA executives zipped out an alarmist notice to their members: "Did you hear the news," they asked? "The White House is planning to have an 'organic' garden… The thought of it being organic made [us] shudder."

Well, they'd better get used to shuddering, for political leaders from coast to coast are getting on board with the good food movement. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, for example, is putting an organic garden on the National Mall to encourage visitors to plant their own back home. Also, governors and mayors – from Annapolis to Sacramento – are vying with each other to put in the biggest and best organic gardens. In Baltimore, Mayor Sheila Dixon notes that her plot in front of City Hall is nearly twice as big as the White House garden.

Yes, these are symbolic gestures, but symbolism is a powerful tool for educating the public and affirming the virtues of local, sustainable, non-chemical food production. Spread the word.

"Farms Race: The Obama's White House Garden Has Given Fire to an International Movement,", May 1, 2009.

"Organic White House Garden Puts Some Conventional Panties in a Twist,", March 28, 2009.

"MACA lobbyists and Michelle Obama's garden," Email from Julie S., April 13, 2009.

I Heart Peanuts

I'm eating a lot of peanut butter (Trader Joe's Organic Crunchy) these days. Ann's garden is producing an amazing number of cucumbers now, so I eat cucumber slices with a dab of peanut butter for lunch.

Here's some interesting info on peanuts, from the World's Healthiest Foods web site (sponsored by the George Mateljan Foundation).

Link: Health Benefits of Peanuts

In addition to being every kid's (and many grownup kid's) favorite sandwich filling, peanuts pack a serious nutritional punch and offer a variety of health benefits.

Your Heart Will Go Nuts for Peanuts

Peanuts are a very good source of monounsaturated fats, the type of fat that is emphasized in the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet. Studies of diets with a special emphasis on peanuts have shown that this little legume is a big ally for a healthy heart. In one such randomized, double-blind, cross-over study involving 22 subjects, a high monounsaturated diet that emphasized peanuts and peanut butter decreased cardiovascular disease risk by an estimated 21% compared to the average American diet.

In addition to their monounsaturated fat content, peanuts feature an array of other nutrients that, in numerous studies, have been shown to promote heart health. Peanuts are good sources of vitamin E, niacin, folate, protein and manganese. In addition, peanuts provide resveratrol, the phenolic antioxidant also found in red grapes and red wine that is thought to be responsible for the French paradox: the fact that in France, people consume a diet that is not low in fat, but have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease compared to the U.S. With all of the important nutrients provided by nuts like peanuts, it is no wonder that numerous research studies, including the Nurses' Health Study that involved over 86,000 women, have found that frequent nut consumption is related to reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.

Peanuts Rival Fruit as a Source of Antioxidants

Not only do peanuts contain oleic acid, the healthful fat found in olive oil, but new research shows these tasty legumes are also as rich in antioxidants as many fruits.

While unable to boast an antioxidant content that can compare with the fruits highest in antioxidants, such as pomegranate, roasted peanuts do rival the antioxidant content of blackberries and strawberries, and are far richer in antioxidants than apples, carrots or beets. Research conducted by a team of University of Florida scientists, published in the journal Food Chemistry, shows that peanuts contain high concentrations of antioxidant polyphenols, primarily a compound called p-coumaric acid, and that roasting can increase peanuts' p-coumaric acid levels, boosting their overall antioxidant content by as much as 22%.

Peanuts' Antioxidants Key to their Heart-Health Benefits

Research published in the British Journal of Nutrition (Blomhoff R, Carlsen MH), which identified several nuts among plant foods with the highest total antioxidant content, suggests nut's high antioxidant content may be key to their cardio-protective benefits.

Nuts' high antioxidant content helps explain results seen in the Iowa Women's Health Study in which risk of death from cardiovascular and coronary heart diseases showed strong and consistent reductions with increasing nut/peanut butter consumption. Total death rates decreased 11% and 19% for nut/peanut butter intake once per week and 1-4 times per week, respectively.

Even more impressive were the results of a review study of the evidence linking nuts and lower risk of coronary heart disease, also published in the British Journal of Nutrition. (Kelly JH, Sabate J.) In this study, researchers looked at four large prospective epidemiological studies-the Adventist Health Study, Iowa Women's Study, Nurses' Health Study and the Physician's Health Study. When evidence from all four studies was combined, subjects consuming nuts at least 4 times a week showed a 37% reduced risk of coronary heart disease compared to those who never or seldom ate nuts. Each additional serving of nuts per week was associated with an average 8.3% reduced risk of coronary heart disease.

Practical Tip: To lower your risk of cardiovascular and coronary heart disease, enjoy a handful of peanuts or other nuts, or a tablespoon of nut butter, at least 4 times a week.

Small Farms To Be Regulated Out of Business

The End of Small Farms? What you should know about HR 875, HR 759, NAIS and Monsanto

America's small farmers are under attack through a series of bills presented under the guise of "food safety." I don't want to lose my freedom to grow, buy and eat real foods. Let's fight for our small farmers who not only need our protection and support, but actual freeing from government intrusion, control and harm.

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Practical Capitalism

Here's an excerpt from an essay by Eric Andrews that suggests how to adapt to a world characterized by overspending governments, boom and bust economies, deflation and inflation, greed, and shortages.

Link: Readers Journal-Eric Andrews 12/29/08

Real, useful capitalism requires not a response to the belated price signal but visionary action. And since it is already too late to alter large, long-term issues at the Governmental level—say, mass transit, zero-energy homes, or building the transmission and generation capacity to support wind-fueled electric cars—the best any of us can do is to think ahead to make sure that we ourselves are insulated from unnecessary trouble. That is to say, if you want pickled herring on Friday, would you save in strawberry jam and hope to trade? So if you want a retirement that includes food, energy, and security, wouldn't it make more sense to invest directly in those things? The working of the price signal depends on somebody else thinking ahead and saving for you, anticipating what you may need and making it. But we already know those needs will not be met in the macro sense. So if you want them and want them reliably, shouldn't you buy them now while they're cheap? Things such as a low-energy/low money input house. Things such as ways to provide and produce your own food: a greenhouse, a mushroom log, a garden, a chicken coop. Perhaps become a marginal producer of energy with investment in wind, PV, or whatever other creative solution takes your fancy. As you will have far less to buy later, higher prices and shortages will have less effect on you while the yearly savings of non-buying accrue year after year. You thereby use your retirement savings far more wisely, with far more certainty and control.

Dr. Mehmet Oz’s Personal Health and Wellness Program

Dr. Oz can be heard on XM Satellite Radio, seen on Oprah or Good Morning America or read in Esquire magazine or in any of his bestselling YOU books. He takes an enlightened approach to preventing life-robbing diseases and he’s at the forefront of an international revolution in health and medicine.

Below are some excerpts from Life Extension magazine.

Link: Dr. Mehmet Oz: Global Medicine – Life Extension.

Dr. Oz’s Personal Health and Wellness Program

Dr. Oz’s Personal Health and Wellness Program

Dr. Oz takes the following supplements:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids (fish oils)

  • Vitamin D3

  • Calcium

  • Multivitamin daily

For his patients with heart problems, Dr. Oz recommends the following in dosages customized to the patient:

  • Folic acid

  • CoQ10

  • L-Carnitine

  • Niacin (if the patient has high cholesterol)


Dr. Oz has made a DVD of his personal fitness program, which was designed by his trainer, Joel Harper. He says, “It’s a straightforward way of getting people to exercise. I’m traveling a lot and don’t have time to go to the gym, but I like to work out so I put this on my computer and do my workout in my hotel room.


Dr. Oz eats a Mediterranean-type diet.

Monsanto Loses a Battle, Refocuses on Seed Monopoly

The Organic Consumers Union has some good news.

Link: A Decade of Consumer Pressure Is Driving Monsanto’s Bovine Growth Hormone off the Market.

Monsanto announces its selling its posilac division that makes bovine growth hormone.

St. Louis-based Monsanto announced today it is selling the division that produces bovine growth hormone, also known as rBGH or rBST.

There’s no problem with the product, insists the company. During a conference call today, Monsanto’s Chrissie Chavis told reporters that Posilac, as it’s known commercially, is a "solid successful product of significant value to dairy farmers."

But nationwide a growing number of consumers and dairy processors feel otherwise. "No artificial growth hormones used" is now commonly displayed on store shelves from Florida to California.

The proposed sale, she said, allows the company to focus on genetically engineered seed. "Our long term growth platform is focused on corn, soybeans, cotton and vegetables.

Let’s not forget that Monsanto is almost a monopoly on seeds planted for food and crops.

Link: Kitchen Gardeners International, Where do your seeds come from?

The following companies use Seminis (owned by Monsanto) as a supplier:

– Territorial Seeds
– Totally Tomato
– Vermont Bean Seed Co.
– Burpee
– Cook’s Garden
– Johnny’s Seeds
– Earl May Seed
– Gardens Alive
– Lindenberg Seeds
– Mountain Valley Seed
– Park Seed
– T&T Seeds
– Tomato Growers Supply
– Willhite Seed Co.
– Nichol’s
– Rupp
– Osborne
– Snow
– Stokes
– Jungs
– R.H. Shumway
– The Vermont Bean Seed Company
– Seeds for the World
– Seymour’s Selected Seeds
– Roots and Rhizomes
– McClure and Zimmerman Quality Bulb Brokers
– Spring Hill Nurseries
– Breck’s Bulbs
– Audubon Workshop
– Flower of the Month Club
– Wayside Gardens
– Park Bulbs
– Park’s Countryside Garden